By Jeremy McDonald
JEFFERSON, Ore.– Jefferson’s Jace Aguilar is just getting back into the lab, working on his craft in preparation of a crazy 2021 year ahead. Working with Ryan Vargas at Clutch Time working on the finer details of his game close to home in Albany.
Almost two months ago Aguilar was in Idaho, playing in his final of 12 games he was playing in before Idaho started to shut things down to slow the spread of the Coronavirus that picked up across the way from Oregon. Playing with guys from Santiam like Erza Downey, Chaz Storm and his future teammates with the Lions in Leon Romo and the Aguilar brothers in Danny and Diego.
There is no relation between the Aguilar brothers and Aguilar, who transferred in from Scio entering this school year. But overall, it was good to work with all of them entering his sophomore season. Especially growing the team chemistry as some of the Jefferson kids got a team together on their own for eight games.
“It was good to play with them. I played with them growing up when I. First started playing AAU, so it was good to be on the court with natural athletes,” said Aguilar of playing with some of the Jefferson and Santiam kids. “Diego is my grade, and Danny is the oldest at senior. It is very fun to play with them. Knowing that Diego can hit any shot at any time and could catch fire and could go 10/10 from three at any moment is very comforting considering that there are weapons around me.
“Including Danny being able lock up any player on the court and handling the ball up the court and being able to make plays for others. And also, players like Zach (Wusstig) and Leon hustling every defensive play diving for loose balls and really completing the whole package we need as a team.”
Aguilar got a chance to get some valuable Varsity minutes with the Loggers as a freshman along with fellow Scio freshman Chance Beachy. Playing alongside a solid Logger Senior class as Scio came within a possession of advancing in the PacWest Conference League playoffs back in February of 2020, falling to James Moore and Blanchet Catholic 63-60 in overtime.
It wasn’t a total shock for Aguilar, but there were some things last year showed that he’s aiming to improve on now with Jefferson.
“It wasn’t as big of a shock as it may seem for others. I knew how to handle the pressure, I could handle trash talk and loud crowds, that’s what I lived for. But one thing i had to learn is that win or loss or if my shot was falling or not, I had to still work hard defensively to make up for the missed shots,” said Aguilar. “It was very beneficial for me to have that experience early and so young.
“I got a lot of playing time and went through wins and losses and tough crowds and close game losses and blowouts. It’s all about how hard you can get hit and get back up and bounce back and I learned a lot on how to do that.”
The Lions two league losses came way of the Oakland Oakers, and were the difference in Oakland winning the Central Valley Conference with the Oakers going 12-0 overall and Jefferson 10-2.
It is uncertain how the league would work with the Pandemic. There’s a chance Oakland may not be in the league with the OSAA recommending regional play over traditional league play in a normal year. But nonetheless, there is that drive to play in the challenge that 2A brings with the stellar teams that come with it.
“Makes me more anxious to play teams like S(alem) A(cademy), Oakland and Santiam. Cause as of playing Oakland, we are out for revenge on winning league. We will be over looked all year and all it does is motivate us,” said Aguilar.
Working with some of his new teammates in Idaho, though it was just eight-games in a travel-ball setting and as a pick-up/travel-ball squad, helped the sophomore guard in setting up a groove with them for when the season hopefully kicks off in May.
“It was like I’ve been there my whole life. The chemistry and teamwork were there,” Aguilar said. “And then the following tournament we played in together, it was just that much better. It is important to get to play with them, because I have known them for five-plus years.”
This pandemic has made Aguilar appreciate and motivate the guard in leaving it out there. He doesn’t know if it’ll be the last game and he doesn’t like the feeling of watching the State Tournament as a fan following his freshman, returning to the lab this past Wednesday.
“I could do nothing but just compete and play every game like it’s my last. This pandemic has been a huge wakeup call because as a 15-year-old freshman last year playing the last game of the season I’m thinking about next year and preparing for that,” Aguilar said. “I went to the state tournament and not making it there, watching other teams I played make it far into the tournament could not have been more motivating as a player who didn’t make it.
“So me having a goal to make it that tournament the next year and then not even having an opportunity is humbling for the times I do get to play during these times because you never know when it can be taken away from you.”
Aguilar mentioned how important working the little things will give him that ‘wow’-factor. That ‘wow’-factor for football where he’s quarterbacking under second-year Head Coach Kaleb Gligan and that ‘wow’-factor when it comes to the basketball court as well under Lions Head Coach Danny Aguilar.
“It is very important to me because I need that wow factor, like dunking. Footwork will help a long way, especially in football as well and defensively for basketball,” Aguilar said.
Football is scheduled to start February 8 with practice with basketball practice starting May 10.